There were significant differences in natality among the less developed countries prior to the 1960*s, but these were variations in high fertility due to differences in age at marriage, in cultural practices relating to marriage and reproduction, and in the prevalence of disease, as well as to the use of modern methods of birth control associated with rising levels of socioeconomic development (6).
With the important exception of Japan all countries with low birth rates in 1960 were of European cultural and ethnic background. This is in no way to imply than non-Europeans could not or would not achieve lower fertility; it is simply an empirical fact that, aside from Japan, they had not done so. Historically, low fertility patterns had diffused from their center in northern and western Europe to southern and eastern Europe and across the Soviet Union in a rather orderly pattern. In overseas countries of European background birth rates were higher, but birth rates in these countries did not remotely approach the levels in the less developed countries or what had existed in the same countries prior to the long downward trend. Today, in overseas countries of European settlement the "baby boom" has receded, and birth rates are substantially lower than they were in the decade following World War II. In the less developed regions, countries with mainly European populations had much lower birth rates than their neighbors. Thus Argentina and Uruguay reported birth rates of 22.3 (1967) and 21.4 (1966) in contrast with an estimate of over 40 for the rest of South America.
Until very recently all countries with low birth rates were in the temperate zones. Again, this does not imply that people living in tropical countries could not or would not achieve reductions in natality. It is simply that as of 1960 they had not done so. Tropical countries almost universally had high birth rates.
In summary, countries that had experienced the demographic transition in birth rates were almost universally "developed," chiefly of European cultural background, and located in the temperate zone. Countries of high birth rates were characteristically less developed, non-European, and tropical.
Contrary to popular assumption, neither religious doctrine (i.e., the position of the Catholic Church) nor political ideology (i.e., communist vs. non-communist) seem to have been a decisive factor in birth rates. Catholic countries ranged from lowest to highest birth rates, depending upon their level of development. Communist doctrine against population limitation has not been a barrier to the spread of the small family pattern; in fact eastern European countries and the Slavic populations of the Soviet Union now have among the lowest birth rates in the world. Communist policies have, if anything, accelerated reduction of fertility by providing abortions in the health services and
Europe), 35.6; and, most interesting, Rumania, 26.3, a rise from 14.3 in 1966 because